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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Friday, May 13, 2005
"God Bless America"
I was having a discussion with some folks on a sports discussion board about first baseman, Carlos Delgado, of the Florida Marlins, and his protest refusal to stand for the singing of "God Bless America" during the seventh inning stretch. Someone posed the question: "What exactly about "God Bless America" deserves respect?" Here were my thoughts:

On "God Bless America"... after 9/11, that song will (at least for me) be forever associated with the terrorist attacks on our country, and our national response of defiance in the face of those attacks.

In the days after the attacks, the feeling among most of us (even if we've forgotten it a bit as time has passed) was that the airliner attacks were just the start. Sure enough, shortly after the attacks, the appearance of Anthrax letters seemed to confirm that our country's enemies were just getting started. There were rumors of stolen crop-dusters potentially laden with chemical or biological weapons. Living in an area where there's a lot of agriculture, that sure wasn't a comforting thought.

Our national reaction to this situation could have been to crawl into a shell of fear. That would have been a major victory for bin Laden and his allies.

But, the response of our citizens wasn't fear. It was defiance. When I hung my flag outside my front door the day after the attack, I was doing so in part as a big "**** you" to whoever was going to try to kill me, my family and my countrymen. I figured I was placing a big giant bullseye to the first son of a ***** with a crop duster that wanted me to die. I was telling them that I wasn't afraid of them.

As flags went up throughout my neighborhood, and throughout the country, I imagine a lot of other citizens with similar feelings.

In another show of defiance, unity, and mourning (those feeling all got mingled together in those days), we, after a brief hiatus, resumed our national sports. It would have been easy to cancel the baseball season. It seemed like such a trivial issue compared to what had just occurred, and what seemed likely to occur in the months and years ahead.

But, cancelling the baseball season would have been a capitulation to the terrorists. And, as a nation, we determined that we would not allow them that victory either. So, we resumed the season.

And, when we did, we also made sure to take a moment of every game (the 7th inning stretch) to remind ourselves of the events that had just taken place, of how unified we were, of how determined we were to refuse to let craven murderers destroy our way of life. This was the moment when we sang "God Bless America." We sang it as brothers and sisters, as a show of strength, and we sang it as grief-stricken mourners in memory of those whose lives had been taken.

I went to a game at Pac Bell Park shortly after the attacks. The thousands of people that went to that game went there despite the fact that we all knew that doing so placed us right in the middle of a prime terrorist target. I wore a rugby shirt that is modeled after the flag. Stars and Stripes. A gigantic sign to my enemies that I wasn't scared. I would occasionally see a plane that had just taken off from SFO, and I imagined them veering into the ballpark. I wanted to be sure that the son of a ***** in the cockpit saw that I wasn't afraid of him. And, when I stood up in the 7th inning to sing "God Bless America", I sang it as loud and clear as I possibly could, as did everyone else in the ballpark.

So, no: "God Bless America" isn't a 70 year old song. It's not a tradition from my great grandparents' generation. "God Bless America" is about my generation's test, and my generation's response to that test. It's about standing up and saying, "I believe in America. I love America. No cowardly murderer is going to frighten me away from that belief or that love. And, I will never forget."

I could be wrong, but I don't think I'm alone in my feelings about the song. I think a lot of those Americans that sang along with me at Pac Bell, and those Americans who sang along with me when we all sang the song from our homes during every playoff and World Series game that season… I think a lot of those Americans feel exactly as I do about "God Bless America". Carlos Delgado clearly doesn't feel that way. But, Carlos Delgado was here in 2001, even if he was a couple miles over the border in Toronto. Carlos should understand the meaning of that song to his fellow American citizens, and particularly to the people whose families were destroyed by terrorists. 24 of his teammates stood up. His decision to sit while they stood is a slap in my face, and a show of disrespect to all the people of this great country.
One of the sucky things about living in a democracy is that people have the right to express themselves in ways that are disrespectful, insensitive, and even wrong-headed.

If you go by Natan Sharansky's 'Town Square' test ("If you can go in the center of the town square and you can express your views and you will not be punished for this, so you live in a free society. If you are punished for this, if you are afraid to express your views, you live in a fear society."), then I am reassured that this idiot is playing baseball in a free society.
Which doesn't take away from the fact that he is an idiot.
What about God Bless America deserves respect? What kind of question is that? I guess I don't know the answer. What about the Bible, or the Declaration of Independence, or Abraham Lincoln, or the NYFD deserves respect? You respect what you want to respect. I guess Mr. Delgado, who hails from Puerto Rico and makes millions of dollars to play in America, isn't "comfortable" with the lyrics:

God Bless America
Land that I love,
Stand beside her,
And guide her,
Through the night,
With a light from above.
From the mountains,
To the praries,
To the oceans white with foam,
God Bless America,
My home sweet home.

Pretty controversial stuff.
Well said.

Your post reminds me of another post I just read at On the Face, an Israeli blog by a gal named Lisa. Take a look. She writes about Israeli Memorial day which just happened a few days ago. On Memorial Day, at 11 in the morning, all the air-raid sirens in the whole country sound for a minute. Every single person stops what they are doing and stands at attention. Radio and television stations broadcast dead air for a minute. People in vehicles stop, get out of the car, and stand. (The post has a nice picture of this.) The entire country comes to a halt to remember their fallen soldiers. I'd love it if we could do this in the U.S., but we'd have to figure out the whole multiple-time-zones thing. Anyway, her post is about a group of women in a café that, much to everyone else's disgust just kept chatting at their table through the sirens. They are the Israeli Carlos Delgado.

I guess, David (treppenwitz) is right. It's a mark of a free society that both those women and Mr. Delgado don't have the snot beat out of them, regardless of how satisfying we'd find that.
I just don't like the song. Seriously, read those lyrics that Oven so kindly posted. It's much too syrupy and trite. Whose bright idea was it to make *that* song the post 9/11 unity song? There are plenty of other patriotic songs that express my feelings toward our country in a more mature manner. "The Star-Spangled Banner," for instance...
Just curious: wouldn't it be all right if independent citizens beat the snot out of these people, as opposed to the government?
: D
I'd have a hard time resisting myself, if not for assault and battery allegations... Then again, if a whole bunch of people joins in, these people would probably not remember who did it...
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